Tag Archives: Kadima


Bibi’s love of Labor


For a few days now the “accepted wisdom” in political circles is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is close to striking a deal with Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid and Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftalie Bennett. He has realized that it is impossible to break up the Lapid-Bennett alliance [one won’t enter the government without the other], so he has decided to buckle and bring them into his government.

But one lone newspaper is reporting something else. The haredi newspaper “Mishpacha” reported on Monday that Netanyahu has ordered his coalition negotiating team to make huge efforts to bring Labor’s Shelly Yachimovich into his coalition. “Hamishpacha” reported that Netanyahu told Yachimovich that she had until the end of this week to present her positions for entering the government, and that the Labor party chairwoman is apparently drawing up such a document. Should Yechimovich enter the government, Netanyahu could form a government with Labor [15], the haredi parties [18], Tzippi Livni’s Hatnuah [6], Kadima [2] as well as the Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list [31], to give him 72 Knesset seats. With that, Netanyahu could leave both Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi out of the government. According to the paper, Netanyahu told the three heads of the Shas party at a meeting on Sunday that “I am meeting with you for one purpose, and that is to get your help in getting Yechimovich into the coalition.”

Netanyahu fears Lapid [who could become prime minister] and he hates Bennett [it’s personal]. He would rather sell out large swathes of his economic vision [the socioeconomic gaps are widening and we need to bring Israeli society together, not pull it apart] and in return get Labor’s support for the serious security challenges facing Israel in the region, including a nuclear Iran, and the implosion of Syria.

So if that’s Netanyahu’s plan, it goes something like this: Netanyahu tells Yechimovich “You deal with the socioeconomic problems, I’ll take care of the security challenges, Tzippi will talk to the Palestinians, and the haredim will promise to build lots more houses so that apartment prices go down. And they promise to start entering the workforce in greater numbers. Everyone wins.”

But what about Netanyahu’s aversion to Yechimovich’s economic worldview?

Netanyahu is focusing all of his energies on coming up with a formula for bringing Labor into a coalition with his Likud-Beytenu and the haredi parties. He would rather give up significant powers over the country’s financial direction in return for Labor’s support for his undisputed leadership, something that would be significantly in jeopardy were Netanyahu to form a government with Lapid and Bennett. Netanyahu believes, rightly or wrongly, that the two political upstarts will do everything in their power to weaken him ahead of the next elections [in which he has vowed to contend], and stymie every one of his decisions. It will be a government of three heads, or so the thinking goes.

If Netanyahu can say “Livni won’t get anywhere near peace talks” and then give her peace talks, he can sit with Yechimovich in coalition after calling her economic policies “disastrous.”

A Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett coalition is a coalition of big internal changes: haredi draft and workforce participation, change in the system of government, breaking the haredi monopoly on religious institutions, and other such things, which the haredim will never agree to. It is not a coalition of big diplomatic changes, as this coalition will only last if no concrete proposal is made to establish a Palestinian state. Talks yes, agreement no.

A Netanyahu-Labor-Hatnuah-haredim coalition is a coalition more to Netanyahu’s liking, as it is devoid of any real challengers to his leadership. It is also a coalition of potential external changes: a peace process with the Palestinians, as long as it is slow, measured, and fully backed by strong security guarantees. This coalition might even go for a settlement freeze to get the talks going again,  and the haredim would love nothing better than that, to stick it to the “Gentiles and Reformim” of the national-religious camp. A settlement freeze might not even be that big of a risk for Netanyahu because, hey, he did it once before and the Palestinians didn’t come to the party.

I don’t know how likely this scenario is, but Netanyahu and his teams are working very intensively to bring Yechimovich on board. For her part, Yechimovich could strike gold with an appointment as finance minister, and perhaps some other serious socioeconomic portfolios. For the protest leaders in her party, getting into positions of real power must give them food for thought.

It won't work

In Netanyahu-Liberman deal, Haredim may be kingmakers again

חרדים ירושלמים. צולם על ידי אפי ב.
חרדים ירושלמים. צולם על ידי אפי ב. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the parties on the Center-Left unite in response to the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu merger, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will need the Haredi parties even more than before, which is exactly the opposite of what’s in the national interest, and exactly the opposite of what his spokespeople are saying was the rationale for this merger.

Even Yisrael Beytenu is talking this merger up as a great chance to reform the electoral system and to end the Tal Law fiasco.

But if the Left can put away its ego and unite, then Netanyahu’s maneuver could backfire and none of his stated reforms will be implemented.

If both left and right wing blocs need the haredim to put them over the top of 61 votes in the 120 member Knesset, then once again the haredi parties will serve as the kingmakers in the electoral system.

So forget about reforming the system of government, which the Haredim are against. Forget about a constitution, and forget about drafting the haredim into the workforce, the army, or national service.

By uniting with Lieberman, Netanyahu may have inadvertedly galvanized the Left to unite – so Israel goes back to the way it’s been here before the big Kadima bang: two blocs: left and right, with neither being able to form a coalition on its own, and having to pay off the ultra-Orthodox or the Arabs for their votes.

In the end what we might have is a situation where the blocs are tied at 60-60 and then the question is who is going to break the tie.

And in that case, someone will have to decide who to give the chance to form the next government to, and that person will have to then decide between the Arab parties and the Haredi parties – two non-Zionist factions.

If this is the eventual outcome of the Likud, Yisrael Beytenu merger, then the haredim, far from being stripped of their relevance, once again become Lords of the Land.

Haredi Judaism in New York City
Haredi Judaism in New York City (Photo credit: Alex E. Proimos)

Livni’s litany of failures

Ousted Kadima chairwoman Tzippi Livni is retiring from politics for now. She leaves behind a bland, uneventful political career with barely any accomplishments to speak of.

When then-Kadima leader Ehud Olmert faced withering criticism for his handling of the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, and even more withering fire for his alleged corruption probes afterwards, Livni failed to push Olmert aside and forge a new leadership. By trying to keep ‘politically clean,’ by promising ‘a different politics without cynicism,’ Livni remained politically ineffectual. Only after Olmert was forced to resign did she inherit the mantle of leadership. She didn’t take it from him, it, like much of her political career, was handed to her.

After the general elections in 2009, in which Livni’s party won the most Knesset seats [28 to Likud’s 27] she failed to form a coalition government, paving the way for Netanyahu to take the reins of power. Livni’s inexperience and naïveté cost her the prime minister’s office. By sending her negotiators to potential coalition partners with a fixed offer, Livni was outflanked by Netanyahu, who showed that he is a much savvier political operator.

In the three years since her failed bid for power, Livni has failed to keep Kadima united, vibrant, and relevant. Above all, her failure to respond in time to last summer’s socioeconomic protest sealed her fate. The Kadima Chairwoman stayed out of the socioeconomic protest movement that erupted here in early June, not wanting to give the government the excuse it was looking for to taint the grassroots movement, which started over the high price of cottage cheese and lack of affordable housing, in a political hue. Livni calculated, wrongly, that the Israeli middle class would rise up and hound Benjamin Netanyahu’s government out of town. But, as things turned out, the middle class didn’t want a revolution [as middle classes rarely ever do]. It wanted the government to get to work. It wanted the government to fix things, lower prices, lower taxes, and make day-care tax deductible.

She failed to make peace with Mofaz, she failed to coax Yair Lapid into Kadima, or even into an alliance with Kadima, and she failed in inspiring the nation by coming up with something, anything new.

Her term as foreign minister under an Olmert government also proved uneventful, with Olmert doing the heavy lifting opposite PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and behind the scenes with Bashar Assad. She never struck out on her own [as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is doing, rightly or wrongly] and she never offered even the faintest hint of originality, creativity, or dogged determination.

And then, finally, she failed to defeat Mofaz, a challenger that she already beat once before.
Three years after inheriting the party from Ehud Olmert, who inherited it from Ariel Sharon, Tzipi Livni was unceremoniously shown the door.

The only thing surprising about any of this is the surprise at her demise by those who didn’t know her. But those of us who followed her career closely are not so surprised.

Lampooning Lapid

Yair Lapid, the man who would be king, is starting to lose altitude. Just under two months since he announced that he was quitting journalism and entering politics, Lapid is starting to get worn down. And now the polls are starting to show what could be, for Lapid, a long, slow, and painful descent until the country actually heads into general elections, sometime toward the end of the year or the beginning of next year. Continue reading Lampooning Lapid

Some thoughts on the situation 18/01/2011

1. A senior ranking IDF officer has told reporters the following two things:

a). The army is very loathe to demolish the illegal settlement outpost of Migron by the court-appointed deadline of March because it “will cause a serious backlash from the right wing and possibly change the security balance in the West Bank.”
In other words: we can carry out the orders of the High Court but it’s going to cause a major upheaval and so may not even be worth the trouble. Continue reading Some thoughts on the situation 18/01/2011

Two national unity governments for two peoples

Much of the international community’s hope for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians currently rests on the formation of two national unity governments, one in Israel and one in the Palestinian territories.

Both the Israelis [represented by the Likud and Kadima parties] and the Palestinians [represented by Fatah and Hamas] are currently absorbed in near-identical processes to unite their two largest ideological blocs. On the Palestinian side, one of the blocs is represented by a terrorist organization that refuses to recognize Israel, disavow violence, or respect previous signed agreements. Its charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and the most it is willing to countenance is a long term truce, not a two-state solution. Hamas’ inclusion in a Palestinian unity government the world can engage with is by no means a foregone conclusion, nor is Israel’s engagement with such a Palestinian national unity government should it arise. Continue reading Two national unity governments for two peoples

Some thoughts on the situation

One week after the elections and what we have right now is a political stalemate without a clear outcome.

Right now we don’t have a government – neither Bibi nor Livni have enough MKs to form a government, since Avigdor Lieberman has not recommended either and who knows what he’ll do come Wednesday at Beit Hanassi. Both Bibi and Livni are trying to entice Lieberman into their camps with promises of ministries and freedom to vote on pertinent issues such as conversions and civil unions. Both Bibi and Livni have promised to topple Hamas once they’re in power – like Lieberman wants. Lieberman would prefer a Likud-led government, but he has problems with the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which will fight him on state-religion issues and changing the electoral system. Shas’ leader has also called Liberman the Devil. Lieberman didn’t like that at all. The Likud is trying to square that circle now: how to give Lieberman what he wants on civil-religious issues while not radically changing the nature of the country’s religious establishment. Everyone in the big parties wants a Likud-Kadima-Israel Beitenu coalition government of 70 MKs . The fight now is over who heads that government, Bibi or Livni. Even after the elections it’s still Bibi or Livni. Continue reading Some thoughts on the situation

Kadima wants Lieberman


A Kadima official told The Jerusalem Post late Tuesday night that Israel Beitenu was more of a natural partner than the Likud, and that Avigdor Lieberman’s party was “not really in the right wing bloc.”

“They are not on the right on the issue of a two-state solution. They support that solution but they want a land swap in it. They are not on the right on state-religion issues and they are not on the right on the issue of changing the system of government. Lieberman is pragmatic and he can definitely be in the coalition,” the top Kadima official said. The official added that Kadima would like to form as broad a coalition as possible, but would settle for a Kadima-Labor-Israel Beitenu-UTJ coalition, which would give it about 63 Knesset seats. Continue reading Kadima wants Lieberman

Livni wins, but Kadima may yet lose election

The outer wall at Kadima HQ on Gissin Street in Petah Tikva’s industrial neighborhood is still adorned with a very large poster of the party’s founder Ariel Sharon, but that could change soon. Inside the bustling building on Tuesday, a large Sharon poster hung across the main office room where dozens of party activists were working the phones on Election Day, checking in with their counterparts in the field at polling booths countrywide. Across the wall is an election poster showing Sharon on the one side, and Kadima leader Tzipi Livni on the other. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been wiped out of Kadima’s literature and PR material. The party that started with Sharon’s ‘big bang’ and struggled ever since through a barrage of sex scandals, corruption investigations, failed and unfinished wars, has come out the other side stronger that it was when Olmert took charge of the party in 2006. Continue reading Livni wins, but Kadima may yet lose election

The Undecided People’s Party

Just a few hours to go before the polls open for Israel’s general election, our fifth in a decade. There are many people who won’t vote, a very small number who will spoil their vote, and a vast amount of people who will only decide who to vote for as they enter the polling booth, and even then not do so with a clear conscience. Choosing the lesser evil is not as thrilling as voting for someone or something you truly believe in. These people, about 30 percent of the electorate, are good, honest folk, who do want to throw away their right to vote just because, at this late stage, they still don’t know who to vote for. I hope they go out to vote and don’t stay home just because they can’t make up their minds. It’s like you know you should buy something with the gift voucher you’ve been given, and you don’t want it to go to waste – it’s only valid on one day every 2 and a half years [technically 4 but hey whose counting?] – but you’re not sure what to get with it. Continue reading The Undecided People’s Party

Happy New War

New year, new war.

Some observations:

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is taking the most aggressive approach to Hamas this time round, rejecting ceasefire proposals and saying that when she wins the general elections and becomes Prime Minister, she’ll destroy Hamas. Livni is trying to take moderate voters away from the Likud who may be worried that Netanyahu’s party is too right wing. Livni’s talking tough because a) she is tough [her family hail from pre-state Jewish underground groups] and b) Kadima is lagging in the polls behind Likud, so taking a hard line stance on Hamas should endear her to many on the right. This election will be decided by about 8-10 percent floating voters, most of them to be had between Kadima and Likud. Continue reading Happy New War

Olmert asks Netanyahu to help explain Israel’s Gaza war

UPDATE: Netanyahu joins Israel’s PR war effort, appearing on FOX News.

Just heard that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met today with opposition leader Likud MK Binyamin Netanyahu and updated him on the security situation, as is required by law. The Prime Minister’s Office also reports that Olmert asked Netanyahu to step up and help in Israel’s public diplomacy efforts during this round of fighting with Hamas in Gaza.

Netanyahu, a fluent English-speaker with a Harvard degree, is considered the top public speaker in Israel, especially on foreign networks. While Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog and President Shimon Peres are no slouches, nobody comes close to Bibi’s clarity and force of argument, regardless of whether one agrees with him or not. Continue reading Olmert asks Netanyahu to help explain Israel’s Gaza war

Likud taunts Livni with Nasrallah-boy

Seems everyone is jumping on the ‘I got a crush on Obama’ video.

After a relatively unknown member of Knesset, Sagiv Asulin of the Likud got a pretty fan to do a spoof of the original Obama video. This one’s actually pretty good. Continue reading Likud taunts Livni with Nasrallah-boy

Israeli elections set for February 10

Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik set the elections for February 10, 2009. That’s about 100 days from now.

Here are a few observations from some of the polls released today.

In a Haaretz Dialogue poll, those asked who is most able to deal with Israel’s security problems, 33 percent of respondents answered Netanyahu, 26 percent said Defense Minister Ehud Barak, head of the Labor Party, and 14 percent said Livni. And this is why Kadima leader Tzipi Livni needs former chief of staff and minister of defense Shaul Mofaz so badly, to bolster her and Kadima’s security credentials. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, while seen as a Mr. Security for having served in the secretive Shabak for many years, has taken a beating of late for his handling of the Uri Bar-Lev affair and other police bungles. There is a general sense in the country that Livni, as prime minister, would be tested by the likes of Hizbullah, Hamas and maybe even the Syrians. With Mofaz [as possible Foreign Minister] and Ehud Barak [as Defense Minister] at her side, Livni would look a hell of a lot less vulnerable. Livni also desperately needs Mofaz to be happy with his lot in life and not deepen his animosity for her after her narrow win over him in the Kadima leadership race; she does not need a rebel camp in Kadima. Continue reading Israeli elections set for February 10